Salles, Walter (1956–)

views updated

Salles, Walter (1956–)

An internationally known Brazilian film director, Walter Salles grew up in France and the United States as the son of a millionaire banker who was the Brazilian ambassador to those countries. Salles directed documentaries for ten years before making feature films. In 1995 he codirected Terra Estrangeira (Foreign Land) with Daniela Thomas. It is a black-and-white thriller depicting the reverse migration of a couple from Brazil to Portugal. Central do Brasil (Central Station, 1998) catapulted his career. It revolves around a retired school teacher who meets a young boy in search of his father. An allegory of Brazil's development, it is a road movie about self-discovery. Set in Rio and the Northeastern sertão (hinterland), the film pays homage to the Cinema Novo film movement from the 1960s. It won the top prize at the Berlin film festival and was nominated for two Oscars.

Salles is known for creating beautiful imagery, despite the apparent poverty faced by his characters. His other films include Diarios de motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries, 2004) based on the writings and life of Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Salles traversed Che's 5,000-mile motorcycle route three times in preparation for the film. There he met the people who served as actors in the film (he also employed nonprofessional actors in Central do Brasil). This technique follows from Salles's impulse to portray naturalistic Latin American people, and shows the clear influence on him of Italian neorealism. The film solidified his status as a world-renowned auteur.

See alsoCinema: From the Silent Film to 1990; Cinema: Since 1990; Cinema Novo.


Films by Salles

Socorro Nobre [Life Somewhere Else], 1995

Terra Estrangeira [Foreign Land], 1996

Central do Brasil [Central Station], 1998

O Primeiro Dia [Midnight], 1998

Somos Todos Filhos da Terra [We Are All Children of the Land], 1998

Abril Despedaçado [Behind the Sun], 2001)

Armas E Paz [Guns and Peace], 2002)

Castanha e Caju Contra o Encouraçado Titanic [Chestnut and Cashews against the Battleship Titanic] (SHORT), 2002

Diarios de motocicleta [The Motorcycle Diaries], 2004

Dark Water (2005)

Secondary Sources

Andrew, Geoff. "Walter Salles." Guardian (London), August 26, 2004.

D'Avila, Roberto. Os cineastas: Conversas com Roberto D'Avila. Rio de Janeiro: Bom Texto, 2002.

Falicov, Tamara L. "Central Do Brasil." In International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, edited by Sara and Tom Pendergast. New York: St. James Press, 2000. Also available at

Kaufman, Anthony. "Sentimental Journey as National Allegory: An Interview with Walter Salles." Cineaste 24, no.1 (1998), 19-21.

Nagib, Lucia, ed. The New Brazilian Cinema. London: I. B. Taurus, 2003.

Shaw, Deborah. Contemporary Cinema of Latin America: Ten Key Films. London and New York: Continuum, 2003.

                                  Tamara L. Falicov